WHO member states yesterday agreed to an independent probe into the UN agency’s coronavirus response as US criticism mounted over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Countries taking part in the WHO’s annual assembly, being held virtually for the first time, adopted a resolution by consensus urging a joint response to the crisis.
The resolution, tabled by the EU, called for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the pandemic, which has so far infected more than 4.9 million people and killed more than 320,000.
It said that the investigation should include a probe of “the actions of WHO and their time-lines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The US did not disassociate itself from the consensus as some had feared after Washington chastised the WHO on the first day of the assembly on Monday and lashed out further against China over its role in the outbreak.
US President Donald Trump late on Monday threatened to pull the US out of the WHO.
“They’re a puppet of China, they’re China-centric to put it nicer,” he said. “They gave us a lot of bad advice.”
Trump had already suspended US funding to the UN body, and after his White House comments, he tweeted a letter he had sent to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus threatening to make that freeze permanent.
“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” the letter said, giving the body 30 days to show “substantive improvements.”
His comments prompted a harsh reaction from Beijing, which yesterday said that Washington was “shirking responsibility.”
On the sidelines of the escalating row, the EU yesterday stepped up its support for the WHO.
“This is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger-pointing or for undermining multilateral cooperation,” EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson told reporters in Brussels.
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